Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Board Engagement Beyond Fundraising

We’re fundraisers. Our goal is to inspire people to engage with our charities, typically leading to gifts of money and time.

But that engagement can lead to other important activities as well—such as advocacy and lobbying. We cannot forget the impact that public policy can have on our organizations, and in turn, the impact of grassroots support from our donors and supporters.

Of course, some of our biggest supporters are our board members. They are our champions and advocates, and as such, they need to be engaged on the front lines when it comes to public policy.

But how we do we do that? Most of us are probably very good at identifying board member skills when it comes to fundraising, but what about advocacy? How do we position our board members to address legislative and regulatory issues that can dramatically affect what we do and how we do it?

BoardSource has just launched a new campaign, Stand for Your Mission, which “seeks to unleash the full potential of the nonprofit sector to create positive impact by engaging board leaders more directly in the advocacy work of their organizations.”

I recommend you take a look at the website and download the guide. And if you haven’t seen it already, Sonya Campion, a long-time AFP member, has an excellent op-ed on The Chronicle of Philanthropy website on making advocacy a major part of every board member’s duty.

AFP is working to engage you—the fundraising profession—in advocacy and public policy, and you have an equal responsibility to engage your board—your greatest champions—in this arena as well.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Who We Are

We’ve just released our latest Compensation and Benefits Report—covering 2014—and if you need information about your salary and other benefits, it’s the resource to use. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more detailed survey of the fundraising profession, and with our new Job Title Mini-Reports, we’re giving you more specific, targeted compensation and benefits data than ever before.

But the report goes way beyond just look at salaries, and I think this is a point that’s often missed. We question survey participants about all aspects of being in the profession, from demographics and key challenges in the work place to why they entered the profession and getting prepared for retirement.

Do you feel like you need more education in order to advance your career? It’s probably a good idea to consider it. Nineteen percent of respondents held the CFRE, while 43 percent have taken continuing education programs or graduate courses (certificate, master’s, Ph.D.) related to fundraising, nonprofit management or philanthropy at a college or university.  Ten percent of all respondents plan to take courses in the future.

Feeling the pressures of having insufficient staff personnel? You’re not alone. It was the most popular challenge selected by honorees, followed by “leaders who don’t appreciate fundraising” and “competition from other assigned duties.”

The report even contains some organizational data. While you can look at salaries based on funds raised and annual budget, there’s also information on staffing, and how many staff charities have in different departments.

The Compensation and Benefits Report is a snapshot of who the profession, what we’re thinking, and the challenges we’re facing. Should you use it to negotiate a better salary, or ensure you keep your staff benefits competitive? I encourage you to do so, and our new Job Title Mini-Reports are made just for that.

But there’s a wealth of other data that you should know—about your colleagues, the profession and even about yourself.  The Compensation and Benefits Report is a great resource, and I encourage you to download it now.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Giving USA 2015: Record Giving and Growth, But Still Stuck at Two Percent GDP

You’ve probably seen some of the major Giving USA 2015 numbers already: growth of over five percent (adjusted for inflation) and a record level of giving at $358.4 billion. Amazing figures, and the data aligns with what we saw with the Nonprofit Research Collaborative’s (NRC) 2014 Year-End Fundraising Survey: strong growth in fundraising across the board with fundraising success levels at what we saw before the recession.

What’s really striking about the Giving USA data is just how quickly it took for giving to rise back to pre-recession levels. Just a few years ago, there was talk about how it might take a decade for giving to recover. Now it’s done so in just half that time. That speaks to the strong tradition of and investment in philanthropy in the U.S., as well as the level of professionalism within fundraising.

While the level of giving has returned to its pre-recession point, the makeup of giving has continued to change. Religious giving, which used to account for half of all giving decades ago, represented only 32 percent of total gifts in 2014. Arts, cultural and humanities groups saw the biggest growth in giving in 2014, which parallels what we saw for such groups in the NRC Year-End Survey as well (arts and culture groups experienced the biggest growth as well). 

Despite all the fantastic news, overall charitable giving accounted for just 2.1 percent of Gross Domestic Product. It’s a challenge we’ve faced for many years now: how to get giving significantly past the 1.8 – 2.0 percent hurdle where it has been stuck at for decades (reaching 2.4 percent once in 2000). It’s one of the key goals for AFP, and we’ll be using a variety of research and public policy tools to find new and innovative ways to push giving to higher levels.

For more information and analysis of Giving USA 2015, check out these resources from our eWire newsletter, including information about how members can get a 30 percent discount on all Giving USA products.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

New Controversies, Same Issues

Every time there is a significant charitable controversy or issue, like clockwork, along come the columns and thought pieces on what the charitable sector really needs: greater impact, better measurements, more accountability and enforcement that has some teeth.

I don’t necessarily disagree with any of those conclusions in principle. But in practice, what do they really mean? Let’s look at some of more popular ideas.

The charitable sector needs more rules and regulations and a government watchdog to police it. Let's be clear—the sector doesn’t need more rules and regulations. What it needs is for existing rules and regulations to be adequately enforced. And that means that existing organizations, such as the Internal Revenue Service, Revenue Canada and appropriate state and provincial entities, to be funded adequately. That alone would make a huge difference.

The charitable sector needs to be better able to measure its impact so we can determine which charities operate most effectively. Individual organizations definitely need to better demonstrate and convey their impact, no question. Donors need to understand how organizations are making a difference and how their contributions will help, and that falls on charities to communicate their programs and impact more effectively.

But I’m continually frustrated by this idea that there’s some easy way to measure the impact of different charities, or that the impact of the vast majority of nonprofits is somehow in question. There’s simply no good way of measuring the impact of entirely different issues and missions, and it’s part of the strength and vibrancy of our sector: the great diversity of causes. Yes, there may be many organizations working on a particular cause, but they often do so in different ways, or focus on different aspects of the issue.

That’s not a bad thing, and if it means some charities have mission overlap, so be it. That’s what partnerships and collaborations are for.

Not all charity is equal, and only certain charities should qualify for tax-deductible contributions. As with impact, there’s no way to determine which charitable causes are better, or which will have a greater impact. Who’s going to make that determination—and what do we do with new causes that have just become popular. How long do they have to be around before they become “legitimized?”

Charities exist to create the society we believe we need to provide opportunity for all—not just feeding the poor and treating the sick, but providing all kinds of opportunities—education, the arts, the environment, civil rights, research and countless others.  THAT is the defining system of our charitable system, and no controversy should ever change that.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Reconstructing Philanthropy - From the Funder's Side

As fundraisers, it’s almost a rite of passage to bemoan restricted funds and the problems it can create for our organizations. Even if we receive a gift with strings that is focused on one of our program priorities, it can create problems in the future if we need to shift our work.

Of course, it’s one thing for a fundraiser to bring up these issues, but quite another when a funder does. And that’s what makes Paul Shoemaker’s take on reconstructing philanthropy so important. He’s NOT a fundraiser—he’s the executive connector at Social Venture Partners Seattle and a board member at several charities. But it’s clear he understands fundraising and what restricted funds (or as he calls them, Quite Damaging Dollars, or QDDs) can do to a charity.

In his longer paper, Reconstructing Philanthropy From the Outside-In (which I encourage you to read through), he talks about rebuilding philanthropy through five practices for funders:

Give unrestricted funds;
Fund long-term;
Connect with peers;
Build great boards; and
Listen to beneficiaries

As Paul says, none of these ideas are new. Many fundraisers and others have been discussing some of these changes for a while—although perhaps quietly for fear of not wanting to upset funders. But we can’t change philanthropy all by ourselves. Philanthropy is a partnership, and we need to engage—and support—all of the participants in the philanthropic process.

I hope Paul’s paper is a clarion call for funders and the entire sector to talk about these sorts of changes, just as the CompassPoint Underdeveloped study forced fundraisers to look at how we work with boards, executive staff and others.

Because it’s not just about unrestricted funds—it’s about all of us working together towards our common goal: reigniting philanthropy and create greater impact to better serving our communities and our world.

Monday, May 4, 2015

NRC Survey Brings Welcome News

A lot of great news came out of the conference—so much so I’m having trouble getting to it all! Some of the best news was the results from the Nonprofit Research Collaborative’s 2014 Year-End Fundraising Survey.

The Nonprofit Research Collaborative (NRC) is a group of nonprofits, associations and for-profits serving the sector who are putting their efforts together in creating and supporting one common fundraising survey to support fundraising and philanthropy.

With the Year-End Survey, we found that 73 percent of charities met their fundraising goals in 2014, the best result since we began asking the question in 2010 and a marked increase over the 63 percent that met goal in 2013.

In addition, 63 percent of 2014 respondents saw growth in funds raised—again, the best result since the annual surveys began in 2010.

If you go back and look at AFP’s previous State of Fundraising Surveys—which asked the same questions—those are the sorts of success figures we saw before the recession.

And there’s lots more good news from the survey as well—you can find the full results here.

Big picture: I think the survey is important because it shows that, for the most part, national economies have balanced out. There are no huge, overarching trends—at the moment—like the economy that are going to significantly impact our fundraising, for the most part. The focus, as it should be, is on local issues and our fundraising skills and preparation.

The environment may change, and possibly very quickly. But it’s time to do all the things we say we will when the conditions are tough and we wish for better times and the resources to do a bit more. THIS is that time—when we need to put together everything we’ve learned from our own work, our mentors and from events like the recent International Fundraising Conference—and put them into action.

I hope AFP—whether it’s our International Headquarters, one of our chapters, or even an individual colleague or mentor—can help you. Whether it’s an online course or program, or one of our events, or even a research piece like the NRC study, there are so many resources available. And we need to use them.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Honoring Service

If there’s a word we don’t use enough in the sector, it is service.

But I think that service defines who we are and what we do: we are servants of the public trust, and we serve our communities.

Service is neither glamorous nor easy. But there are no words to describe the feeling we get when we know our efforts have a made a difference in the lives of someone. In the health of our communities. In the state of our environment and the world.

That’s why it’s always a special opportunity to recognize those who have given so much of themselves—who have dedicated their lives to service.

At our Celebration of Philanthropy dinner during the recent International Fundraising Conference in Baltimore, AFP had the great honor to recognize four such individuals who have served and given back so much to the fundraising community and all of philanthropy:
Each of these individuals has demonstrated extraordinary selflessness, generosity, commitment and dedication to the principles of ethical fundraising and philanthropy.  I’ve gotten to know all of them, and they are the epitome of what it means to be a fundraiser and engage in a life of service—a goal we should all aspire to.